Dogs bond with owners just by looking A Welsh corgi competes in the ring with its owner on the second day of Crufts dog show at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, England (AP photo / Thinkstock)
Dogs bond with owners just by looking
Lexile

Oh, those puppy eyes.

Just by gazing at their owners, dogs can trigger a response in their masters' brains. It helps them bond. And owners can do a similar trick in return. That's what some researchers have found.

This two-way street evidently began when dogs were domesticated. This was long ago. That's because it helped the two species connect, the Japanese researchers say.

As canine psychology experts Evan MacLean and Brian Hare of Duke University wrote in a commentary on the work, "When your dog is staring at you, she may not just be after your sandwich."

The new work is the first to present a biological mechanism for bonding across species. That's according to researcher Larry Young. He is from Emory University. It is in Atlanta, Georgia. Neither he nor the Duke scientists were involved in the study. It was reported in a paper from Japan released by the journal Science. Duke is in Durham, North Carolina.

The brain response is an increase in levels of a hormone called oxytocin. Studies in people and animals indicate this substance promotes social bonding. Think of it like a bond between a parent and an infant.

One experiment in the new research involved 30 owners and their dogs. Oxytocin levels in the urine of both species were sampled. The levels were measured before and after the owners and their dogs spent a half-hour together.

Analysis showed that owners whose dogs looked at them longer in the first five minutes had bigger boosts in oxytocin levels. Similarly, dogs that gazed longer got a hormone boost, too. That's evidently in response to being touched by their owners during the session. It's what one of the study authors, Takefumi Kikusui of Azabu University near Tokyo, said in an email.

No such result appeared when researchers tried the experiment with wolves. The animals were paired with people who had raised them, although not as pets. The difference suggests dogs started gazing at owners as a social strategy when they became domesticated. That is instead of inheriting it from their wolf ancestors, researchers said.

Another experiment with dogs found they looked at their owners longer if they were given doses of oxytocin. The hormone levels also went up in their owners. These results appeared only in female dogs. The reason isn't clear.

An oxytocin researcher not connected to the study said previous work had provided bits of evidence that the hormone plays a role in bonding between species. But that the new work is more comprehensive.

"It makes very good sense," said C. Sue Carter. She directs the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University.

But Clive Wynne of Arizona State University disagrees. He is a psychologist who studies interaction between dogs and people. He said he thinks the link to domestication is "barking up the wrong tree." The study doesn't provide convincing evidence for that, he said.

Emory's Young studies bonding behavior. He said the relationship between people and dogs is special. Human love can lose its initial exhilaration over time, he said. But he hasn't seen that with the dogs he has owned for 10 years.

He described his relationship with his dogs.

"When I come home from work every day, they are just as excited to see me now as they were when I got them."

Critical thinking challenge: Why were wolves used in the study? What do wolves have in common with dogs? How are they different from dogs?

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COMMENTS (38)
  • Tiffany0307-yyca
    4/22/2015 - 08:24 p.m.

    I think that bonding with a dog can be very cute, and also exciting as well. But, I also think that it is a lovely time and it seems so nice in a relationship between an animal and a human. But it is also amazing to know that how the bond between a human and a dog actually works. These hormones and the brain-working information is very interesting to know about. But it is kind of weird at the same time, because I don't really think you can bond with a dog just by looking at it and just staring and gazing into its cute puppy eyes. About the information part anyway, it should be weird because it's kind of dangerous to have wolves in the experiments.
    Critical Thinking Challenge: Why were wolves used in the study? What do wolves have in common with dogs? How are they different from dogs?
    Answer: They were used in the study because they might have wanted to test out if they can bond with wolves and see how the experiment goes. The wolves were trained and became dogs, so that's why they both have in common with each other. They are different because wolves are still wild animals, and are not trained to be dogs.

  • william1108-yyca
    4/22/2015 - 09:36 p.m.

    I think it feels cool to bond with your dog. I always wanted a dog. I actually wonder if a dog actually would take your sand witch if they stare at you. Studding a dog gives information about it. i also want to study one so I learn how to bond with your dog,how to teach them new tricks, and how to make them to listen to you. So a dog is what I always wanted so I might get one and I'm going to be a good dog owner and teach it a lot of things.

  • IzzyBrown-Maske-Ste
    4/23/2015 - 01:52 p.m.

    I think wolves are use in the study because, wolves are related to dogs.
    Dogs and wolves are the same because they both have amazing hearing, they both have good smelling, and they both can hunt awesomely.
    Dogs and wolves are different because, wolves are wild and dogs can be train, wolves hunt for there food and us humans give our food to our dogs to eat.

  • orahf-
    4/27/2015 - 01:32 p.m.

    The dog is going to have owner who be with dog everyday. The dog will be home until the owner come home from work. The dog are not wild animals so they dog are better than wolves.

  • CassieS-Saw
    4/27/2015 - 01:50 p.m.

    I think it is really awesome that a dog can bond with a human just looking at them.

  • kevinp-joh
    4/28/2015 - 09:48 a.m.

    What is really neat is there was a paper from Japan released by journal scientists.

  • Declanc-Cla
    5/05/2015 - 05:12 p.m.

    thats what happend with my puppy she was just so CUTE!!!!!!

  • ShecklenZ-Sua
    5/13/2015 - 08:31 p.m.

    wolves were used in the study because wolves are a part of the dog family . wolves are common with dogs because they both are dogs . The story says " The difference suggests dogs started gazing at owners as a social strategy when they became domesticated."

    1. it says that wolves are a part of the dog family.

    2. it says that dogs gaze at owners as a social strategy.

    3. the article talks about dogs and wolves are in the same family of dogs

  • LiCausiM-Sua
    5/13/2015 - 08:42 p.m.

    I think wolves were used as study because wolves are the same species as dogs. That also have the same ancestors. The difference about dogs, and wolves is that wolves don't have home. Dogs get put on dog shows and get trained to do tricks, but wolves don't. There are a lot more reasons on how dogs and wolves are alike but this is all I am going to put down.

  • MayerS-Sua
    5/13/2015 - 08:52 p.m.

    Why the wolves were used in the study was to compare the behavior of the wolves with dogs. The study found that wolves and dogs act completely different. The dogs would gaze at the owners eyes while the wolves did not show interest in the human. How wolves are the same as dogs because they have the same fetcher's. That is why and how dogs and wolves are different and alike.

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